Magdalena Abakanowicz

Magdalena Abakanowicz

Born June 20 1930, Falenty
Died April 21 2017

Magdalena Abakanowicz is one of the major figures of contemporary art, whose significance is comparable to Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse and Rachel Whiteread. She was born nine years before the outbreak of the Second World War, she had stayed in Poland during the wartime and did not even leave the country at the time of totality. The local historical experience has meant her major inspiration. The existence of the individual in society, individual as an antithesis and also the foundation stone of the crowd, characterizes her work from the beginning of the sixties. Her original textile sculptures, Abakan, were gradually followed by extensive series of humanoid sculptures of sitting, standing and dancing human torsos of papier-mâché and metal, contemplative gardens, castings of faces or cycles of fantastic creatures and weapons.


In 1950-1954, Magdalena Abakanowicz graduated from Akademia Sztuk Pięknych/ The Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. She particularly used the techniques of gouache, preferring a large format for the base material (paper, canvas). Her first works were typified by their wealth of colours, and their fanciful exploration of plant, insect and animal morphology.


Abakanowicz started to explore the potential of woven material



In 1965, Magdalena Abakanowicz was appointed professor at the Academia Sztuk Pięknych/ Academy of Fine Arts in Poznan, working there until 1990. In the same year, she won an award at the biennale of contemporary art in São Paulo. In the second half of the 1960's, she exhibited her works in European, American, Australian and Japanese museums.
[Magdalena Abakanowicz] (solo exhibition, Warsaw)
VIII. Bienal de São Paulo (group exhibition, São Paulo)


[Magdalena Abakanowicz] (solo exhibition, Oslo )


[Magdalena Abakanovicz] (solo exhibition, Zurich)
XXXIV. Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte/ La Biennale di Venezia (group exhibition, Venice)
[Magdalena Abakanowicz] (solo exhibition, Eindhoven)


[Magdalena Abakanowicz] (solo exhibition, Lausanne)
[Magdalena Abakanowicz] (solo exhibition, Mannheim)
Wall Hangings (group exhibition, New York (NY))


At the beginning of the 1970's, Abakanowicz's interest in symbolic and monumental forms considerably deepened. She began to use jute and resin to create extensive cycles of figurative and non-figurative sculptures (Alterations, 1972), and heads (Schizoid heads, 1973-1975). Her studies of human torsos gradually formed bands, lines, groups of nestling (80 Backs, 1976-1980), sitting (Seated figures,1974-1979) and standing bodies under her typical spatial direction. She engaged in the use of children's figures in her later cycles Ragazze on the beam (1992), Bambini (1994-1995), Flock/ Ragazzi cycle (1990). This was how she formulated her motivation: "A crowd of people, a flock of birds, a swarm of insects or a heap of leaves is the mysterious set of variants of a particular pattern, it is the mystery of the functions of nature, which hates precise reproduction. We are not capable of doing it, just as a human hand is incapable of repeating its own gesture. I implore this unsettling law and I interlay this rythm with my own, stationary flocks."
[Magdalena Abakanowicz] (solo exhibition, Stockholm)


The Fabric Forms of Magdalena Abakanowicz (solo exhibition, Pasadena (CA))


Rope Structures (solo exhibition, Bristol)


12 seated figures
12 seated figures (sculpture)

[Magdalena Abakanowicz] (solo exhibition, Łódź)


Abakanowicz: Organic Structures and Human Forms (solo exhibition, London)
[Magdalena Abakanowicz] (solo exhibition, Warsaw)


Fiber Works Europe and Japan (group exhibition, Kyoto)


After crucial exhibitions in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia (1976), Abakanowicz participated with great success in the Venice biennale in 1980 (Embryology, 1978-1980). Her extensive retrospective, which she prepared for Paris (1982) and American museums, including The Metropolitan Museum in New York (1982-1984), also recorded a significant response.


Retrospective exhibition (solo exhibition, Chicago (IL))
[Magdalena Abakanowicz] (solo exhibition, Paris)
Kunst Wird Material (group exhibition, Berlin)


International Open Air Sculpture Biennałe (group exhibition, Antwerpen)



The second half of the 1980's meant that Abakanowicz moved outside the walls of institutions, in favour of sculpting stone and iron smelting. In 1985, she created a group of thirty bronze sculptures, larger-than-life human torsos (a height of about three metres) in the countryside near Florence. Katharsis was made to order for the Spazi d’Arte foundation of Giulian Gori (1930) and it was the artist's first large outdoor installation. Two years later, Abakanowicz designed a capacious sculpture consisting of seven stone circles for The Israel Museum in Jeruzalem. The collossi are almost 3 metres high, weigh twelve tons, and they are located in the sculptors' garden in the Negev desert museum. In 1988, on the occasion of the Olympic games in Seoul, she cast ten monumental bronze heads of mythical animals for the local park. She returned to smaller formats in the series of studies of bronze heads Incarnations, 1986. Between 1987 and1989 (modified in 1991-1993) she created a series containing fantastic weapons, War games.
[Magdalena Abakanowicz] (solo exhibition, Lausanne)


Biennale of Sydney (group exhibition, Sydney)


Avant-Garde in the Eighties (group exhibition, Los Angeles (CA))
Expressive – Central European Art since 1960 (group exhibition, Vienna)


[Magdalena Abakanowicz] (solo exhibition, Frankfurt am Main)
[Magdalena Abakanowicz] (solo exhibition, New York (NY))
Where you stay, Revolution? (group exhibition, Bochum)


During her tour of Japan (1990), a foundation was established bearing Abakanowicz's name. She initiated the organization of a series of lectures for both lay people and professionals as well as an original dance performance. The performances of Japanese and Polish dancers under the choreography of the artist were held in Hiroshima, Tokyo and Warsaw fifty years after the end of WWII (in 1994 and 1995). Groups of dancing figures also appear later in Abakanowicz's sculptural work (jute and bronze cycles from 2000-2005). Between 1993 and 1995, Magdalena Abakanowicz created a large installation of 150 figures of children titled Hurma (1994-1995) and a group of sixty adult figures titled Backward Standing (1993-1994). She outlined studies of animal bodies in the Standing Mutants (1992-1993) and Seating Mutants (1996) cycles.


Another step towards public space was her Arboreal Architecture project in the early 1990's. Through this project Abakanowicz participated in an architectural competition concerning the development of the Historical Axis of Paris. Her design included housing estates and residential areas being dissected by facades covered with greenery which, it was hoped, would open up this area of the city. Her design was chosen but it was never implemented, due to the reduction in building activities following the death of Françoise Mitterand.


[Magdalena Abakanowicz] (group exhibition, New York (NY))


Our Century (group exhibition, Cologne)
XLVI. Esposizione Internazionale d´Arte/ La Biennale di Venezia (group exhibition, Venice)


Mutants (solo exhibition, New York (NY))
XLVII. Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte/ La Biennale di Venezia (group exhibition, Venice)
A Century of Sculpture — The Nasher Collection (group exhibition, New York (NY))
Inauguration (group exhibition, Bilbao)


At the turn of the millennium, Abakanowicz created a pair of contemplative spaces, an installation in Vilnius titled Space of Unknown Growth and Space of Stone in Hamilton, the U.S.A. The first installation consists of a forest set of twenty two, four or five metre tall sculptures made of hand-tooled concrete and symbolizing hay stacks and glacial boulders


Abakanowicz on the Roof (solo exhibition, New York (NY))
Wild Flowers (solo exhibition, New York (NY))


Deliberate work with space and a reflection of the shared experience which occasionally acquires ritualized morphology (landscape indications etc.) is also characteristic of Abakanowicz's building of extensive figural groups, separated by long distances, but at the same time they symbolically create a common pattern or motif. Apart from the above mentioned, they include: the installation of standing and moving figures of adults and children made of bronze, titled Crowd of 95 Figures (2000), a Poznan group of 112 cast iron two metre tall human figures Unrecognized (2002
Abakanowicz (solo exhibition, Kraków)


Magdalena Abakanowicz - Birds, Conglomerates, Ghosts, Spirits (solo exhibition, Düsseldorf)
Magdalena Abakanowicz: Reality of Dreams (solo exhibition, Evanston (IL))
Magdalena Abakanowicz: Hurma, 1994-1995 (solo exhibition, Miami (FL))
Magdalena Abakanowicz (solo exhibition, Valencia)
Magdalena Abakanowicz: Where are the areas of calm? (solo exhibition, Madrid)
Cysterna (solo exhibition, Warsaw)


King Arthur’s Court (solo exhibition, Düsseldorf)
Magdalena Abakanowicz: Space to Experience (solo exhibition, Milano)
Magdalena Abakanowicz (solo exhibition, Bad Homburg vor der Höhe)
elles@centrepompidou (solo exhibition, Paris)


Abakanowicz (solo exhibition, Kraków)
Magdalena Abakanowicz (solo exhibition, Davidson (NC))
Magdalena Abakanowicz: Recent Sculpture (solo exhibition, New York (NY))
Abakanowicz. In Warsaw at last! (solo exhibition, Warsaw)





Magdalena Abakanowicz │ Presence, Essence, Identity (solo exhibition, Wałbrzych)
Magdalena Abakanowicz (solo exhibition, Bydgoszcz)


In the Space of Magdalena Abakanowicz (solo exhibition, Orońsko)

Muzeum umění Olomouc 2011-2022